Activity #1: Run a Campaign
Have students study the platforms of two candidates, either past or present, using a newspaper or a list created by you. In groups, have the students create a campaign poster for one of the candidates on a large piece of posterboard (you may want to show examples to get them started). Have the group present their posters and explain their reasoning.
Activity #2: Platforms
Have your students scour the web, newspaper or other sources to find out those platforms of the candidates running in either a national or local election. Try to have a few different positions (such as governor, congressman, etc.) This could be an excellent precursor to the activity above.
Activity #3: Issues
After explaining about voting on issues, not just people, have the students study various sources to find the issues that will be voted on in the upcoming election.
Activity #4: Is-you (issue) To You
Assign groups or let groups choose an issue. Let students research the issue (it may be a good idea to stay away from highly controversial issues for younger grades) and present to the class. If possible let the class vote on the various results, graph the results and post in the classroom.
Activity #5: Do You Have Issues With the School?
Have the class think of issues that they have some control over (such as, "At what time are you tardy?"). List issues on the board. Make ballots and let the children vote on what they would like.
Activity #6: Debate
A possible extension to voting could be related to language arts, which would be a debate. If there is a controversial issue on the class ballot, have the children choose sides and prepare for a debate. Start with a list of reasons for and against. (This may require time in both subjects for instruction).
Activity #7: Locals
Have a local congresswoman or man come to the classroom to discuss how they feel about voting. Also have them talk about campaigns. (Have the class write a list of questions beforehand). If possible have 2 or 3 congresspeople come, each of a different party.
Activity #8: HIStory
Have a grandparent of a child in the class, come and talk to the class about what voting was like when they were young. Talk about the differences also in elections. (Remember the rules for classroom visitors!)
Activity #9: Another Visitor?: A Recent Citizen
Have a person recently made a citizen of the United States come and talk to the class about their feelings of having the chance to vote for their leaders. Contrast this with what their previous county had.
Activity #10: Registration: A Process
When discussing registering to vote and the qualifications, give the students a chance to design their own registration form. Have them brainstorm the questions to ask. Also ask what the classroom qualifications should be.
Activity #11: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Election: Editorial Cartoons
Have students explore Campaign 2000 (http://cagle.slate.msn.com/2000/) Cartoons and draw a political cartoon of their own. Point out that their cartoons must make a valid statement about a particular political topic. Create an editorial cartoon "museum" in your classroom, and let students roam the museum. Or pull together about 20 different cartoons, package them in groups of four or five, and let small groups of students explore the messages in the cartoons and share those messages with their classmates.
Activity #12: Presidential Eligibility
Provide students with a list of individuals, living or dead, and ask them to determine which of those people would be eligible to run for president in the current election. Individuals might include Ricky Martin, Nathan Hale, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pope John Paul II, Britney Spears, Albert Einstein, Mark McGwire, Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, Sammy Sosa, Betsy Ross, Denzel Washington, and Beatrix Potter. After students have chosen, point out that the only requirements a presidential candidate must have are that he or she is at least 35 years old, is a natural-born citizen of the United States or was a citizen at the time the Constitution was written, and has lived in the United States at least 14 years. (Of course, when choosing the best person to lead the country, voters base their decisions on other important factors as well.) You might also invite them to create their own lists of possible -- and impossible -- presidential candidates.
Activity #13: What Are the Important Issues?
Help students brainstorm a list of important issues the next president will face. Then ask them to vote to narrow those issues to a list of the five most important ones. (Each student can vote for three issues.) Then hold another vote. Have each student vote for the single issue that he or she feels is the most important issue. Then invite each student to create a graph to represent that final vote.
Activity #14: Class Mascot
Explain to your students what a mascot is and give several examples. Split the class into groups to come up with an appropriate class mascot, including name, animal or character, and features. Have them include a picture. After this students will conduct a mock election (with ballots) to decide whom the class mascot will be.
Activity #15: Internet
Have the students explore this website: http://www.alfy.com/Scripts/go.asp?url=http://www.alfy.com/Surprises/Election/index.asp&purl=/Teachers/Teach/Thematic_Units/Election/Election_1.asp
Let them play the games and participate in the polls that are available. A possible extension could be to find other fun sites in elections.
This activity will help students understand the registration process. Each student will be given a registration sheet. The teacher will model and then the students will fill out heir own registration card.
Divide the students into small groups. Have them develop two lists of why people should vote and why people dont vote. Select one item from each list, then create a newspaper ad, poster, commercial, or song to encourage people to vote.
Let the students explore what a ballot looks like. Have them create their own ballot. Next have the students fill out a ballot so that they can experience what it is like.
This is a simulation. Have the student gather together for a discussion. Give each student a folded registration card. Have parent volunteers in the back of the room. As the teacher conducts the discussion on voting or reads aloud students go back in twos with their card to vote. Nobody is allowed to talk about the voting because it is a personal thing. Some will be turned away because their card will say that they are either under eighteen, female, or African American. After everyone has the opportunity to vote the teacher asks the students what they thought. Then the teacher and students discuss what happened and who can vote.
The students have a mock vote. They then take the votes and tally them up like it would be done for a real election. Last they graph the results. It would be a good integrated activity with math.
Take the students on a field trip to city hall. Let the students see where the councilmen meet to discuss and vote on city policies.
Plan a field trip to the state capital. Have students plan what they would see, who they would meet with, and what kinds of questions they would ask.
Pair students up. Have one be an elected official and one be a reporter. Have each student research their own role and prepare for an interview about the upcoming elections. Have students present their role-play to the class.
Create slogans, songs, and speeches for a presidential campaign. Have them create a poster, bumper sticker, or banner with the slogan on it.
Have students create a political cartoon about something from the local, state, or presidential campaigns. It can be about a certain issue or about candidates.
Have students find words that they dont understand in the newspaper or magazines that deal with elections and voting. Have them make small posters with the definitions on them and make a word wall.
Have students think of new rules for the school. Divide them up into two groups. One arguing for and one arguing against the rules. Have them debate both sides of the issue and then have them vote. Tally the votes.
Take all the facts and knowledge that they have learned so far and play jeopardy with them. Divide the students into teams. Give them answers and they have to come up with the questions.
Have students find pictures and words that portray voting. Have them make a collage with these items and display in the classroom.
Bring up an issue such as: should you have math first or science first. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages. Have some students be lobbyists to persuade people to vote the other direction.
Have a class election for a position in the class, such as class pet caretaker, class president, or class cleaning supervisor. Each student who would like to have each position needs to have a campaign. They need to make a list of reasons why they would be good at a certain job (platforms). Then they must write up a short speech containing their platforms. The class will then make a class registration form to give out to each eligible voter. The students should make a ballot to vote with, set up booths so that the voting is private and prepare to vote. Have parents or volunteers come in and help with the voting on the day of the election.
Have the students plan a field trip to civic building to learn more about voting from city officials. When planning the field trip ask students which places would be beneficial to learn more about voting and the government. Have students write letters to city officials asking if their class can visit with them as part of the fieldtrip. Plan the tours of the civic building to find out more about how the government works in that particular city. Have students prepare questions to ask those giving the tour and those officials that they might be meeting with. Go on the field trip and learn. Come back and discuss what they saw and learned.